Human stories are a more effective way to engage people in sustainability issues than dry facts so the aim is to raise awareness of sustainability issues, practices, policies and technologies via a story.
We are currently living beyond our means – if everyone lived as we do in the UK we’d need 3 planets, so the aim of sustainable development is to find ways of living where there is less wasteful distribution of resources. We need to work out ways that we can all have what we need using fewer resources and be just as happy.
The necessary societal transformations to sustainable societies require profound systemic changes across social, cultural, economic, environmental, political and technological domains. But to imagine how all aspects can come together within one society is more the domain of creative fiction. Therefore this competition aims to harness the creative visions of writers to imagine sustainable societies.
Why we ask for a positive view
Stories are powerful means of inspiring positive change. The Black Mirror series reflects anxieties about our future, and climate change discourse further creates fear and avoidance. What we really need are some positive visions that allow potentially transformative solutions to be showcased and played out.
The difficulty in promoting sustainable behaviours is that they are often seen negatively as ‘doing without’ and the typical fear-based discourse can turn people off. This matters as in turn, political parties tend not to see environmental issues as ‘vote winners’ which limits potential for green policy making.
Just as some books/films product place products, we aim to ‘product place’ sustainable attitudes behaviours products and policies. The story doesn’t have to be specifically about climate change or catastrophic shortages, it can be any kind of genre – rom com, crime drama, legal drama, children’s book, sci fi etc. as long as it showcases sustainable technologies, practices, products or ideas in the background. Or another acceptable approach could be to focus on characters. Currently characters in fiction who are green/ethical are often portrayed as priggish or aggressive, we’d like to see attractive characters behaving in sustainable ways.
Research on how people respond to stories
Professor Denise Baden has been exploring responses to stories about climate change. Her findings indicate that solution-focused stories with a positive tone are more likely to inspire greener behaviours and a proactive mindset to address sustainability issues than stories with a catastrophic focus. This seems to be because negatively framed stories can either make people avoid the subject and switch off, or leave them feeling helpless to make a difference. Example quotes relating to the various stories illustrate:
The positive stories were inspiring and made me realise everyone can make a difference.
I think the ones with solutions have more impact than the over the top scare mongering.
The second story felt inspirational. It gave me a simple option that I could take to do something positive for the environment.
This was very frightening and negative. It made me angry and I switched off
Scaring people only leads to switching off.
For more information on the research please click here.
We completed our short story competition just asking for short stories in 2018 which resulted in an anthology of short stories called ‘Resurrection Trust‘. In 2019 we had free competitions across several formats (novel, tv series, stage play, radio play, interactive fiction – see previous winners). In 2020 we are running additional novel (children and adults) quick bites (8-10 minute episodes) and film screenplay, see http://www.greenstories.org.uk/about-the-competition/ with routes to publication/production in place, larger prizes and media involvement. We hope this will create a cultural body of work showcasing sustainable solutions.
We’d love to get sponsorship from organisations that share these values to sponsor prizes for more competitions in 2021.